Ten dogs rescued from an Iowa puppy mill are “learning how to be a dog” now that they’re in the care of a Wichita pet rescue, where they are up for adoption.
It will be a few weeks before the Samoyed dogs, ranging in age from around 12 weeks old to about 5 years old, are cleared for adoption through the Wichita Animal Action League. Sarah Coffman, executive director of WAAL, said the dogs must first be spayed, neutered, microchipped, vaccinated, groomed, receive dental work and be trained.
In that time, the group may receive up to five more puppies from rescuers at an Iowa puppy mill.
Investigators with the Worth County Sheriff’s Office searched a property in north central Iowa on Nov. 12, WAAL said in a release. They found “hundreds of dogs, mainly Samoyeds, living in appalling and overcrowded conditions and exhibiting signs of neglect. Many of the dogs were found in filthy, dilapidated kennels in below freezing temperatures with minimal protection from the elements.”
About 160 dogs were removed from “an inhumane commercial breeding facility often referred to as a ‘puppy mill,’” the release said.
Experts with ASPCA assisted with the investigation as well as removing and sheltering the dogs. Three WAAL volunteers went to Iowa to help care for the animals and bring some back to Wichita for adoption.
“Some of them were very emaciated and had extremely poor body conditions,” Coffman said. “Especially being a double-coated, long-coat breed, they had a lot of gnats. A lot of them had to be shaved down to the skin.”
The volunteers in Iowa provided food, water and clean living conditions to the dogs before bringing some of them to a location in Butler County for further care. Coffman said they have become accustomed to living in their own filth, so they will be more difficult to house-break.
Still, she remains optimistic. The volunteers have seen improvement in the dogs over the past week.
“The first day that we were on scene, they would just gobble up their food because they were stuck in this mindset of not knowing when the next meal was coming,” she said. “By the last day we were there you could tell they wouldn’t scarf down breakfast immediately because they knew lunch was coming.”
Volunteers have had to teach the dogs about treats and toys.
“They’re scared of normal, everyday objects,” Coffman said. “So it took them awhile to figure out what a toy was, and figuring out that this rope that was in their kennel wasn’t there to hurt them and it wasn’t scary, but it was actually there to play with and to give them enjoyment.
“So just teaching them how to be a dog is going to be our goal.”
Puppies were put in play pens where for perhaps the first time in their lives they had enough room to run around. They also learned that peanut butter and other treats taste good, especially when they had to find them hidden inside boxes in their kennels.
Coffman said she saw the dogs “come alive for the first time ever” when they started playing. Trainers will continue to socialize and prepare the dogs for their adoptive homes.
Samoyeds — or Sammies — are fluffy, white dogs with thick coats. They are smart and social, but “a Sammy sentenced to solitary confinement in the yard is miserable,” the American Kennel Club says.
Samoyeds are an expensive breed. Puppies typically start at around $1,500 and can top $2,500, CBS News reports.
More information on how to adopt one of the dogs or to donate to their care is available at www.waalrescue.org. The amount of an adoption fee has not been set. The group will use donations to cover medical, boarding and other costs while dogs are in its care.
“I hope that they get to experience everything that a dog should be able to experience in their life,” Coffman said.
Contributing: Chance Swaim of The Eagle